Not Laser-Vision, Toddler-Vision

August 29, 2010 at 8:47 pm 6 comments

The perspective captured by this photo is why it takes a family longer than half an hour to leave the house.

This view of the world is why children do not march in a direct line straight to the family vehicle, climb in without haste, and buckle themselves up immediately. An adult, or as one might say to themselves in a fit of impatience, a normal person might glance at the clock, grab their keys, check the mirror for stray food particles on the face, and leave, taking five minutes tops before they are out the door. A grown-up might even walk out the door, straight across the yard and into the car where they strap the seat belt, adjust the mirrors and regulate the volume of the radio without a single pause or extra thought.

Adults might do this but children never will.

Adults and children do not see the world in the same way.

As the photo above clearly indicates, the world of children is made of details. There are discoveries to be made with each step, treasures that we, in our hurry to get somewhere other than where we already are, miss entirely. I found this photo while uploading our camera onto the laptop today. It seems that unbeknownst to me Echo has been helping herself to the camera equipment and taking a few illustrative shots from her world. As iPhoto scrolled past a close-up of her foot, an artsy side-angled view of the rug, and a spacey orange glow (a lightbulb?), Echo showed no surprise. Why would she? They make sense to her.

My earliest memories are of a golden shag rug, three colored ovals in a row, and footlights lining a path. For the longest time these were just images that played in my head. Only later could I imagine where I might have seen those things, and what they would have meant in the adult world. I was in my teens, paging through an old family album when I first saw the shag carpet in the background of a faded seventies-era photograph. I’m sure my mother, visiting her mother, set me down on that glorious floor covering for tummy time as an infant. The three ovals, I later discovered, formed the old logo of a television company and was something I’d probably stuck my face against as a furniture-gripping almost-walker. The fuzzy footlights still exist along the path leading to my grandmother’s front door. My early understanding of them must have been abstract and hazy due to my smashed-cheek perch on the shoulder of my father as he carried my sleepy body to a waiting car.

It’s helpful to remember that my experience is not unique. Children everywhere are seeing dazzling, odd sights, right beneath our noses. What we see is the day spread out before us; that we will need to leave the house in the next half-hour if we are to stop by the gas station, run to the grocery store, fill the cart with groceries, and return in time to make three-cheese enchiladas for the Morgenstern’s potluck. What our children see is the deflated balloon within their fingers, the light coming through the potted fern, and the magnet that rolled behind the book-case.

Children do not move slowly on purpose. In fact, if we took the time to consider how many wonders there are between the living room floor and the car seat, we might see their movement as almost lightning quick. But sadly I don’t often take the time. I wish I would. I do not harass my children to get them to hurry. I try to give them ample time to fasten their shoes, or even change their mind several times about which shoes they actually want to wear. I ooh and aah over the dandelions they find on our way to the curb. I come up with games and make-believes that make getting into the car and then into the car seat fun. I laugh while at the grocery store, even say yes to several of their ideas when my initial response might have been no. I try not to say: If you don’t hurry up and get in the car we probably won’t make it to the potluck that you were so excited about!, even though it feels like that is exactly what might happen.

But I do these things, at least in part, to make my life easier. Stopping to ooh and aah over dandelions ends up being an efficient way of getting them to move past them and into the vehicle. The make-believes I come up with, more often than not, are not for our mutual pleasure, they are to expedite the buckling-up procedure. What I mean to say is that I do not actually see the dandelion.

I think most of us do not see the dandelion.

We do not see even half of  the mundane attractions that capture the attention of our offspring. We see someone moving slowly and we take it personally. This is why parents yell at their children, why they yank arms and threaten time-outs, why they say incredibly stupid things, and get grey hairs. If we actually saw the ant on the sidewalk for the amazing phenomenon that our boys do we wouldn’t care about the Morgenstern’s potluck. If we saw the inside workings of the toilet with the same jaw-dropping astonishment that our daughters do we wouldn’t hurry for anything.

The reality is that we probably will never see these things the same way our children do, but we can try. We can make the attempt, actually stop our moving feet, and put down our bags. We can at least give ourselves the opportunity, maybe even leave seemingly random photos in the iPhoto library as a reminder. Maybe even going so far as to make the dirty underside of the kitchen stove our desktop image so that we never rush these sweet, fuzzy-eyed, little people ever again.

Entry filed under: life lessons. Tags: , , , , .

Two Loves Natty

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kat  |  August 30, 2010 at 6:40 am

    From the perspective of a babysitter / nanny, this is actually brilliant. You get paid to idle around with the children. Walking up and down a 500 yard long street and grabbling the lights of every parked car can take up a whole hour. I rarely ever have to provide any entertainment beyond riding the tram for a couple of stops, or going to the local farm, because the children provide the entertainment themselves, wherever we go. I suppose it’s different though when you have to get things done.

  • 2. alyssa  |  August 30, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    This reminds me of the section on pot in michael pollan’s book. He talks about one of the pleasures that adults receive from smoking/ingesting pot is that the world slows down to the speed of a child. You get that sense of wonder that we as adults don’t get in our regular life. Such a good reminder to slow down so we can all enjoy this time.

    • 3. nataliechristensen  |  August 31, 2010 at 9:12 am

      Yes, Nathan and I were just talking about this very thing.

  • 4. Jessi  |  August 30, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    on the nanny note:

    i think that the concept of ‘let the child provide the entertainment’ is why it’s so fun to babysit, be an aunty or uncle, grandparent or family friend. and why having those support people help the parents and the children so much. as parents you can’t help but be aware of the dirty underwear that needs to be changed before leaving the house again, or the doctors appointment that you had to make 2 weeks in advance, or the empty fridge that taunts your plans for dinner for 5 that night. sometimes the micro-perspective that is a 3 year old’s world gets lost in the eyes of someone juggling adult emotions, bills, parent responsibilities and how-to-steps for cooking mac and cheese. this is where extended family (be it friends or family) comes into play. traditionally children were raised by a whole clan of people so that parents could have relief from all the duties of child rearing and household responsibilities in order to take a step back and regain that child-point-of-view. and so that kids can have extra support in adults who can participate in taking the extra 20 minutes to stop and talk to the butterfly because they are free from the daily stresses of doing it every time you need to get anywhere.

    just the other day i put on my aunty-shoes and halted my entire family’s progression from lunch to desert in order to dance with my nephew on the sidewalk. everyone else had been up late that night with small babies, early that morning with toddlers, and my 4 year old nephew just needed someone who could hop skip and jump to the beat with him. i gladly stepped up and danced so that we both could benefit from letting go of the agenda for 5 minutes to feel the thrill of live music in the downtown streets. the whole family watched as we spun, jumped and giggled and both our inner childs were happy. i thank him for reminding me to let go of the schedule, forget the judgmental looks from adults around me, and just live in the moment.

  • 5. Shelly  |  September 4, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Beautiful!! Thank you, Natalie!

    • 6. nataliechristensen  |  September 5, 2010 at 7:25 am

      Your welcome Shelly. Thanks for reading!


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